Does your dog know his name?


Is your dog wilfully deaf?

Training tip: Do you think your dog is wilfully deaf? Do you say his name numerous times before he even seems to notice you? Here's a quick test to check that your dog has made the connection between the collection of noises you have assigned to be his name and anything to do with him...

Does he pass the test?

While your dog is distracted, or focused on something other than you, or asleep even, say his name - in a fairly ordinary way (rather than a falsetto park-scream!) Does he turn his head towards the noise the first time you say it, almost as if to say, "yeah, what?!" If not, chances are he isn't really switched on to what his name is.

Why does it matter?

In some respects, a dog's name is irrelevant - he, after all, does not get a sense of identity from the name you've assigned him.  The name is really for you, for your need to ascribe an identity, cos that's what humans do.  The real need for a dog to have a name arises when training.


Recognising a name is important because it is often the first step in building an ever-longer bridge between a noise ('sit') and an action (sitting).

However, many people use the dog's name to mean half a dozen things: Sparky! (come - if you feel like it); Spark-eee (no-ish); SPARKY! (come! I really kinda mean it, well not really as long as you stop doing that thing and come over in this general direction); Sparky! (stop!)....the list could probably go on.

What 'Sparky' really needs to mean is: "attention on me now for the next step" - Sparky! Come!; Sparky! Sit!

So how do you teach your dog his name?

You might have rewarded your dog with a tidbit to teach 'sit', for example. The principle is the same for teaching him his name. It is a simple association of events.


Teach your dog his name, or reinforce training, by saying his name when he's otherwise engaged but close enough to pop a reward in his mouth, if he's a food reward kinda dog, or chuck him a ball if he's a ball kinda guy. After a couple of repetitions he should start to make the connection between the noise you make, and the reward. 

And finally, when you're out and about, or at home, only use his name to get his attention - like you would a person - so you can tell him what you want him to do next: Sparky...SIT!  Sparky...COME!